Late miscues doom UNLV in 77-73 loss to BYU

Tre’Von Willis leads Rebels with 24 points, but late turnover woes tell the story for 12-3 Rebels

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Justin M. Bowen

UNLV guard Tre’Von Willis lays on the ground after a late turnover during the game against BYU on Jan. 6 at the Marriot Center in Provo, Utah. UNLV lost a close one, 77-73.

UNLV vs #25 BYU

Turnovers late ultimately doomed UNLV, as the Rebels fell to 25th ranked BYU on Wednesday night in Provo, 77-73.

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UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield shoots a runner against BYU on Wednesday at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. Launch slideshow »

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The Rebel Room

BYU POSTGAME: Cougars clean glass, oust Rebels

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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer take a look back on what went down in Provo on Wednesday, as UNLV stumbled against BYU, losing 77-73 in its Mountain West Conference opener. The guys look at what must change for the Rebels before they take on No. 15 New Mexico on Saturday in Albuquerque.

PROVO, Utah — Wednesday night marked the third time in 15 games that UNLV has tasted defeat on the hardwood this season.

But a 77-73 loss at No. 25 BYU in the Rebels' Mountain West Conference opener marked the first time in which Lon Kruger's club fell victim to a late-game collapse, having led by six points with 5:55 to play.

"We were in control most of the game and to let them make a run like that there at the end, not take care of the ball and not execute at the end, it hurts a lot," said UNLV junior guard Kendall Wallace, who scored nine points off of the bench. "This would be a huge win to start the conference, but we have to move on. We can't let this linger after tonight.

"The New Mexico game is that much bigger."

The Rebels (12-3 overall, 0-1 MWC) face the No. 15 Lobos (14-2, 0-1) on Saturday afternoon at The Pit in Albuquerque. And while there is no such thing as a "must-win" situation two games into league play, both teams badly will be wanting to stop recent bleeding. While UNLV has now lost two straight, New Mexico lost its conference opener Tuesday at San Diego State.

If UNLV were to carbon copy the way it played for the first 34 minutes Wednesday when it takes the floor again this weekend, chances are the Rebels will be in a similar position to close out a tight contest.

The Rebels, who trailed by one at the break but shot ahead early in the second half, withstood several runs from the Cougars after the intermission. Each time there was a whiff of BYU (15-1, 1-0) assuming control, the crowd of 15,546 presented UNLV with an overwhelming road atmosphere it had not yet seen this season.

Still, the Rebels refused to flinch. And a layup by junior guard Tre'Von Willis, who led all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, gave UNLV the aforementioned 68-62 edge with just under six minutes to go.

All momentum on UNLV's side — especially on the offensive end — then came to an immediate halt. That would end up being the Rebels' final field goal of the evening, and Willis would be credited with three of his seven turnovers during that closing stretch.

None ended up being more costly than one on an inbounds play with 57 seconds remaining and UNLV trailing, 73-71.

Sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield, inbounding from underneath the basket, flipped a pass over the shoulder of Willis up on the left wing. The pass wound up heading toward the sideline, and Willis's sprinting attempt to save it was unsuccessful.

UNLV buckled down one last time on defense, forcing BYU to milk almost the entire shot clock, but Cougar guard Jackson Emery ended up hitting a fall-away 18-foot jumper atop the key under heavy pressure. It put BYU up by four, with the clock no longer working as UNLV's ally.

"I just thought (the BYU defender) was trailing Tre, so I threw it over the top and I thought Tre had a good look at it, but it didn't work out that way," Bellfield said.

"Me and Oscar just weren't on the same page," Willis said of the crucial giveaway.

A win would have covered up a handful of leaks which helped BYU stick around, but instead, a narrow loss merely magnified them.

One glaring flaw was UNLV getting out-rebounded, 44-37, with 19 of those BYU caroms coming on the offensive glass.

"They hurt us on the boards all night," coach Lon Kruger said. "When you do a decent job the first time through, you've got to finish it off with a defensive board. They had way too many second chances. You can't give a good team that many second looks."

A key moving forward for UNLV will be continually forcing opponents to play at its pace, as that was as integral as anything in the Rebels nearly pulling off the upset.

Leading up to Wednesday's game, Kruger and his players emphasized slowing down BYU, which coming in was one of the nation's most efficient fast-break teams.

With star guard Jimmer Fredette still slowed in the aftermath of a bout with strep throat, UNLV stuffed up BYU's offensive attack in the first half, holding the Cougars to 11-of-41 shooting (2-of-10 from 3-point range). The Rebels forced the Cougars to execute on offense almost entirely out of half-court sets, which took Dave Rose's ball club completely out of its comfort zone. BYU had no fast-break points to its credit at halftime and only four on the night.

Similar execution and dictation will be a must for the Rebels again Saturday against the Lobos.

And though the test over the weekend will by no means make or break the Rebels in terms of the race for a league title, Wednesday's flailing finish showed Kruger's club what it will take to win consistently in a tough league this season.

"We had the game, we've got to find a way to win the game," Willis said. "That's the difference between winning the conference and not winning the conference."

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  1. UNLV was the better team. BYU winning the game was an upset. UNLV will lose more games this year if they don't find a way to close out games; find a will to win.

  2. Rebels let a golden opportunity slip away at Provo. Tough to beat the Cougars AND the refs though. Turnovers and rebounding is killing us lately. Who is going to step up for the Rebs? I think Jasper needs to start taking games over, he is so much more athletic than almost anyone in the Mtn. West.

  3. all good...that 3 that jasper passed up and tried to dish to massamba killed me and the blown layup that would've put us up by 7, instead byu comes down with back to back 3's and they go up by 1...we still battled and victory was still w/in our reach in one of the toughest places to play in the country. good game byu...i'm feelin a rebel 20 point blowout when the boys from provo travel to the mack...no time to dwell were going to the pit in a big time game!!! Go REBZ!!!

  4. Ksiff, it did matter. In the 1st half Wallace and Chop was put in at the same time for Jasper and Stanback. BYU got about 6 or 7 offensive rebounds in that time span off our 4 guard line-up. Very frustrating. I don't understand it.

  5. Poor coaching=loss.

  6. As bad as this one stings (because of what it could have meant), loved the game plan and execution the first 35 minutes. They showed a lot coming off that long layoff. I know I was scared we might get run out of the gym.

    Just have to close it - and that's on the players and it sounds as if they know it. Know that is easier said than done, especially at a place like Provo against a good team. But they need to learn from this.

    If we play like we did last night in New Mexico, we've got a good chance to finish that one. Go Rebels!

  7. where's the fool spouting off about how we were going to get blown out last night? How BYU was going to have a 10 point lead at the beginning of the game. Somebody should revoke the ClosetBYUSoccerFanatics posting rights.

    It was a good game and a tough loss. I don't think it will be a blow-out when they come to the Thomas & Mack. They'll most likely have a healthy Jimmer Fredette. It was obvious he wasn't at full speed, but the Rebels seem to have that guys number. If they hadn't gone to the line so much, it wouldn't have been a close game.

    My question is: who was that wearing #12 and what did he do with Brice Massamba? The kid was beasting last night. We need a whole lot more of that.

  8. Wanted:

    1 power forward for college basketball team in Las Vegas. 6ft 9in tall, 230lbs. Must have strong post moves, be able to rebound and make quick outlet pass.

  9. Couldn't believe the game. UNLV's biggest weakness is BOARDS! Every game, we get out rebounded it seems. Tre did well, with a hiccup at the end, Oscar was good, Jasper with the blocks was superb in the 1st half. Just gotta finish the game.

  10. we already know ho good you're predictions are BYUfanatic:

    "I'm really expecting BYU to beat us by about 15....that's realistically speaking. Once we become flustered in the first 10 mins and fall behind by about 10, it gets terribly worse from there...a good night for UNLV is losing by 10, bad night is by 20. UNLV has NO SHOT at winning the next two games and thats a COLD HARD FACT."

    While you did call the 6+ turnovers, you fail to mention he led the team with 24 points. I think he turns the ball over too much, but he must have stolen your girlfriend.

  11. Three more thoughts:

    1. Loved seeing the Rebels go 7-16 from 3-point range. This will make them a better team taking fewer 3s.

    2. Why does not one story about the game mention BYU getting twice as many free throws?

    3. Big Fish, I'm hoping Quintrell Thomas gets that job you are talking about.

  12. Everyone needs to calm down. While it would be nice to win in Provo or Albuquerque, all that matters is that the Rebels have a MWC record of no worse than 2-2 after next week. The Rebels must hold serve at home this year and then sweep the season series from the likes of Air Force, Colorado State, TCU and Wyoming. The team that can do that and then sweep Utah as well will win the conference title.

  13. New Mexico at their home court the pit will be difficult for the rebels
    quit blaming the officials for the loss rebounding was a huge factor in the game.

    Alford just might out coach Kruger

  14. We will continue to get pounded on the boards playing 4 guards. This isn't rocket science. Rebounding is our weakness because of the line-ups were putting in the game. And by the way, Chop doesn't add one lick of offensive or defensive spark when he is in the game. Why is he playing?

  15. still do no understand why jasper doesnt get to run the offense more... he played pg for KENTUCKY.. and not good enough to run the point at unlv? i like oscar dont get me wrong.. but it looks like there is tension or a power play between the 2 of them. jasper and stanback do not seem to be plugged in to krugers system lately and that scares me.

  16. Well of course you will rebound better when you can come over the back like BYU was permitted to do all night... That free throw count plays huge into how BYU 'managed' to get open down the stretch... When a team goes to the free throw line that much you have no choice but to loosen up on defense...

    I don't know when it was mentioned, but I do agree about the passing though, that needs to tighten up a bit, especially with New Mexico... They did seem to hang a bunch of passes out there... against a quick team that is going to burn you every time....

    BTW I still hate Tavernari... A good nights sleep did not cure that.... LOL

  17. me too. Tavernari fouls so much and doesn't get called for it, then when he does he cries like a baby.

  18. There's a special place in my heart when I see Tavernari whine to the refs

  19. The game that could have been...The rebs need to put a full game together, they would be tough to beat if they did

  20. i thought the game planning by Kruger put us in a good position to win this game? turnovers are not part of the game plan,we'll be ok. shooting from outside is gaining confidence...D is still strong...our rhythm is a little off. when this group gets hot they will be tough to beat. Its all about when you peek....Rebels beeaatch3s!!

  21. Open your eyes and calm yourselves Rebel fans! This is the MWC not the BWAC. Every road win in this conference is hard-earned. ESPN commented last night that the MWC is the toughest conference to play on the road in, regardless of the home team's record.

    It's not like UNLV is on the road against the Anteaters and the Gauchos and then coming home to play CS-Fullerton and Long Beach! They have to play against two Top 25 in very hostile venues, come home and play a team that just beat #15, head back to mountain elevation to play an overachieving upstart, and return home to face a perennial conference contender. Running the table or only losing a game or two in conference will be rare events forevermore.

    A road win against UNM, SDSU, or Utah will be the difference this year between all of the teams.

    UNLV has a tradition of great basketball and the conference opponents they face will only make them better with a coach like Lon Kruger.

  22. Great insight fkg...we're a little off, but we should have peeked half a dozen games ago. I agree with unlvrunrebs that "Jasper should be given the pg position he's a true pg and switching up the line-up could'nt hurt. Tre needs to be more careful with the ball..RebelnSoccerFanatic benching Tre is obsurd..they'd a lost by 30..he had a bump in the road but he's the most consistent offensive threat we have to date get you head out of your??? Go REBELLLSSS and Beat the LOBOS!!!

  23. I thought the calls were pretty one sided last night. The refs let BYU play a little rougher than we did, but I don't think they called every little thing on us, we were able to play a little physical. Tavernari is a such a baby it's not remotely funny. I like the effort given by our guys, with one exception. I don't care how well Steve Jones practices, he SUCKS when he gets into games. Scrambling for a rebound or loose ball once in a while does not make up for giving up 10 rebounds and playing offense 4 on 5.

  24. Louis, I agree with you. One thing though...Jones usually plays like 15 mpg...he played 6 last night...means good things are ahead IMO

  25. The Rebels are a good team not a great team more like NIT material. But remember the tournment is at home which might save the season. The Rebels lack fire power and a great floor leader.

  26. You think its ok to lose on the road? What are you smoking? Two teams will make the MWC. Thats it. Who cares what ESPN says. When was the last time 3 teams have made it in. 1st and 2nd in this league are the only teams that will make the tournament. NIT for the next two.

  27. @ Lobo69

    The Pack 10 is down this year and 1 of the better teams, USC is out so instead of the usual 6+ they will get 2-3 and the MWC will pick up 1-2 of those bids.

  28. Hey Lobo, by my calculation there will be 9 teams in the MWC. And if I had my choice to listen to analysts with real basketball experience or some hack from New Mexico, I'll take ESPN everyday. One more thing, no one here said it is ok ot lose on the road, what people are saying is that this is a very tough conference to win on the road. It is not uncommon for the top teams to drop a road game or two due to the conditions in which they play.

  29. The MWC has been stronger in the past couple years than ever before. I said it before, that a lot of the other conferences are having a weak year this year.

  30. It's early in the season. A lot can and will happen over the next month. It would have been great to win at Provo, but a win at New Mexico will go a long way toward staying in the conference race.... I wouldn't be surprised if the conference champion has at least three losses, maybe four!

    Contrary to what a few people are saying on this board, Lon Kruger is a good coach. He gets more out of his kids that most coaches do...

    GO REBELS!

  31. I would love to see 3 teams in but the MWC seems to get the shaft. PAC 10 is horrible this year.

  32. I can see the selection committee giving the pac 10 fewer bids. Unless Arizona wins their tournament, that streak will be broken. But the spare bids won't be handed out to the MWC. They'll let in some .500 big east team.

    It will be UNLV (automatic bid) and either UNM or BYU. SDSU's OOC was terrible again. Their best win was against MWC whipping boy, Arizona (at home). And they had a bad loss vs. Pacific. Looked good against NM, but they really hurt their chances for an at large bid with that OOC schedule.

    I think BYU takes it again this year. We'll be ok as long as we get the 2 or 3 seed in the Vegas Invitational. We need one of the first round late games to have a big crowd. We get the 2 or 3 seed, we win.

    If this team trips its way into the 4/5 thursday afternoon game again, I think I'll just stay at work.

    I think I'd rather we finished in 6th place than to ever have be one of the 7,000 to go watch the Rebels in the T&M at 2pm on a thursday again.

  33. LOL. MWC gets a 2 and a 4 seed, huh?

    I think soccer fan is really more of a crack fan.

  34. You can't be serious discosis(dilusional)in Bellfeilds hands is what caused a major turnover. We're you watching the game or what? The twelve wins UNLV has posted has been because of Tre love him or hate him he is the man and proves it game after game. Without Tre we'd probably be ??? you do the math. Check out the stats, wins, pts Tre put up and get back with me.

  35. Now the Lobos game is huge. It's very simple. If the Rebels are serious about a league title, then they must win the next two. BYU knows they got away with one, and with Fredette at full strength even at the T&M they will be tough to beat. New Mexico and SDSU are hurting right now, we have to capitalize and win these next two. If we don't, then either BYU or New Mexico will win it. I have to agree Kruger was out-coached in the last 5 minutes of this last game, something I thought I would never say about an MWC opponent. Usually when the Rebels come out of a timeout they get an easy FG. This did not happen when they needed it most. Very tough loss to take.